Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

Select a section to expand and explore this year's review..

Universities and Business Schools – Their Role in the Scaleup Landscape

The UK’s higher education institutions (HEIs) have a key role to play with our scaleup commnity and can be excellent enablers to scaling businesses whether it be through a pool of talent, providing leadership development opportunities or access to research capabilities and facilities. 

The ScaleUp Institute has identified 53 university and business school programmes that have either full-scale scaleup programmes or provide executive education with elements of scaleup content. A significant proportion of these have been launched since the ScaleUp Institute’s Driving Economic Growth courses focussing on overcoming the challenges faced by scaleups.

In April the ScaleUp Institute convened a roundtable of 28 of the UK’s leading universities and business schools to examine the current landscape of academic scaleup programmes and explore how these could evolve and develop.

Key themes of discussion:

Alongside sharing of what each HEI was undertaking and developing, participants recognised the value and importance of branding. The stamp of a university/business school confers a brand that is both neutral and trusted by scaleups.

Evaluation of the impact of programmes is vitally important but difficult to achieve and needs to improve. Comparable metrics should be developed based on clear, strong baseline data but academic institutions need to commit to providing, and collecting, ongoing data. There was agreement about the value of diagnostics to gain insight, to understand the ambitions of scaleup leaders, to inform future plans and to improve evaluation. The success of scaleup programmes should be focused on outcomes, rather than how much business has been secured by the programme itself. This is a battle about quality over quantity. Learning from others can help a business school make their case for a scaleup programme internally.

Many business schools and universities such as Manchester’s Alliance Business School have created peer-to-peer networks for their alumni and for local scaleups, with events usually featuring local businesses and faculty academics. These are effective and popular.

A small number run angel investor networks for their alumni. Henley Business School reported that it had taken a direct lead in setting up an angel network from its alumni that invests in the businesses of other alumni or in those coming through the local science park.

Universities can also work more closely with local authorities to provide solutions to scaleup needs. Sheffield RISE – which is highlighted in the 2019 Review – is a great example of a local cross University-Council initiative to solve the day to day talent needs and accessibility to undergraduate talent for scaling businesses.

Scaleup leaders value leadership programmes which provide blended learning from academics and entrepreneurs, toolkits and immediate applicability. We welcome the introduction of academic courses such as the Liverpool John Moores University’s Scaleup MBA but also the decision to offer scaled down versions to support those without the time to commit to such a level of education. There is a need for leadership and management skills development at multiple levels.

Some regions of the UK are stronger in clustering their skills and mapping their knowledge assets, creating centres of excellence around particular topics or sectors. This requires strong local coordination but may require an organisation or political will to achieve this.

The Scottish Government provides a strong example of how political will can make a difference. It has convened a collective of Scottish universities and business schools to jointly design a scaleup offering that responds to the range of scaleup barriers and exploits the unique disciplines or expertise within each university and business school.

There is potential for programmes which have been endorsed by the ScaleUp Institute to be used as blueprints by other universities and business schools that are in the early stages of planning their scaleup engagement. There may be an opportunity for such endorsed programmes to be ‘franchised’ to other institutions.

It is vital to raise awareness and university outreach to scaleups. Scaleups may not be automatically reaching out to their local business schools and universities, either perceiving them to be cumbersome or irrelevant institutions, or citing time constraints, concerns about IP or the administrative burden. Some higher education institutions had found it difficult to identify which local scaleup leaders to support and recruit into their leadership programmes and their peer networks. They have found personal referrals are the most valuable. Some universities believed that there was a limited appetite for enterprise and entrepreneurship amongst their academic faculty and their post-graduate population.

In conclusion

While universities do compete in certain areas such as for students they can and do co-exist and work together. There is scope and an appetite for greater collaboration in the scaleup agenda because currently each institution is focused on how it can help local companies to scale. There is also a clear opportunity to build on or replicate what works rather than reinvent the wheel and for the HEIs to collaborate more effectively among themselves and even inter-faculty to deliver comprehensive solutions.

Making scaleups a priority area enables business schools and universities to generate additional impact, which is feeding back to the institutions. Roundtable participants agreed that there were further opportunities to share best practice in private forums and to “build a movement.”

The ScaleUp Institute can act as a neutral partner for all universities and business schools. It will champion programmes that are working well, both at local and national levels, and whose impact can be measured.  We will help to bring all parties together to further build out a knowledge exchange environment between higher education institutions, local and national ecosystems and local communities of scaleups.

Page URL: https://www.scaleupinstitute.org.uk/articles/universities-and-business-schools-their-role-in-the-scaleup-landscape/

Previous Liverpool City Region
Next North East